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Tobacco Company Finds Itself Linking Cigarettes to Cancer

August 24, 1996|From Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. — Researchers for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., touting the safety of the company's new smokeless cigarette, were put in the unusual position Friday of avowing that regular cigarettes are linked to cancer in mice.

The researchers presented data on Eclipse, RJR's new smokeless cigarette, at a conference at Duke University. Reynolds helped pay the conference costs.

Among the findings was that mice exposed to Eclipse in "skin painting" tests did not develop malignant tumors, while mice exposed to typical low-tar cigarettes did.

A company spokesman shrugged off the incidental admission.

"There have been studies available since the '50s that show skin-painting of tar produces tumors," spokesman Seth Moskowitz said. "But what relevance does that have to inhalation of cigarette smoke?"

Eclipse burns a carbon tip inside a cigarette tube. As the smoker inhales, air is drawn over tobacco, which isn't burned. Reynolds says the cigarette nearly eliminates secondhand smoke.

In the tests, researchers painted the skin of 40 mice with an extract, or condensate, of smoke from traditional low-tar cigarettes, and 40 with a condensate of Eclipse.

There were no malignant tumors among the Eclipse group, compared to 24 in the other group.

As for the smokeless cigarette, independent researchers at the same conference said they were not ready to proclaim Eclipse safe, and one said the RJR results showed significant problems for the heart.

Dr. Neal Benowitz, a heart disease specialist from UC San Francisco, said Eclipse still exposes smokers to much the same levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide as traditional cigarettes.

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